John Bone: Racing towards the magic 10 million

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Racing nationally may have lowered its aim from ten million to seven million racegoers each year but Newmarket can pride itself on having already done more than most to achieve that ambition. The latest study for the Racecourse Association shows 66 percent of racegoers see it purely as a social occasion, 88 percent of them go only once a year and, tellingly, 39 percent are women, which is a higher female attendance than any other sport.

Purists may sneer but if we are to attract more of those 10 million people who fancy a day at the races yet never quite get round to it, Newmarket must become even more of a leisure and pleasure resort. Even more Ladies’ Days, even more and better restaurants and even more concerts. But we are already on course for that, which can only be good for the whole community, some of whom are local people who have never set foot on either course.

No self-respecting town likes to be left out of a really big national scandal but Newmarket has had to wait a very long time to get mixed up in the Lord Lucan affair.

Suddenly we learn that at a Bunny Putters golfing society dinner in 1974, the now officially dead Lord Lucan placed a huge £2,000 bet on a fellow ex-Guards officer to win their annual tournament at Newmarket Golf Club the next morning.

The ex-officer, Rodney Ward, now 82, has waited 32 years to mention that he was the golfer and he won at Newmarket. So Lucan made a tidy killing right here three days before his child’s nanny was found murdered at his London home and his lordship vanished for ever.

In an article in Golf Quarterly, Mr Ward says he reckons Lucan threw himself off a cross-Channel ferry so it would be no use digging in the bunkers at Newmarket. Still, it’s always nice to be mentioned in a scandal.

When a serious accident involving a car and a motor cycle held up traffic on the A14 for a couple of hours last Friday, police attended not only from Suffolk but from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire road policing unit.

Events like this convince me that county forces’ days are numbered. Local constabulary loyalties are a splendid thing but do they really belong in a world where traffic moves like lightning over boundaries and electronic traffic moves even faster?

When Britain famously “stood alone” in the early days of World War II, she was not truly alone in the sense that she could and did call on a vast international connection that was then called the Empire.

How ties and loyalties have changed in 76 years! And how those who knew those dreadful days rightly refuse to forget how the Empire answered the call. So spare a thought for that shrinking band of veterans from Australia, New Zealand and Canada who will attend a service at Beck Row on Sunday as members of the RAF Mildenhall Register.

It is hard to help even the most imaginative young people of today comprehend the sheer scale and majesty of the task to which these men and women from the far-flung corners of the globe committed their lives to.

My heartfelt congratulations to a lovely, clever, 12-year-old Newmarket girl with a tongue-twister of a name. Norika Dambrauskaite has won a national role in encouraging young people who share her problem, deafness.

Music and the Deaf may sound a contradictory concept but it is a brilliant approach to enabling everyone to enjoy dance and music. The National Deaf Children’s Society says Norika has “exceptional dance talent.” Lord knows, the arts need every encouragement in Newmarket and we need people like Norika to raise our standards.

I am glad John Berry had such fun taking part by phone in a “Mayor of Where?” quiz on Radio 1. He was soon rumbled as our mayor but it was a cheery interlude for our figurehead as he strives to get the town council “moving in the right direction.” His moment of celebrity scarcely rivals that of London’s Boris in the same office but this was a start.

Disused red phone kiosks have found many new roles in our towns and villages – little local lending libraries in these tiny premises have become quite common. But Prickwillow have shown true originality in using their old box for an art exhibition. Pre-school children’s animal-themed works are on show all this month. Well done! I dare say the National Gallery was quite small when it started.